The teachings of Messiah, 9:51-19:44
4. Who enters the kingdom? 13:22-16:13
v] Repentant sinners - the source of God's joy. 15:1-32
a) The lost sheepSynopsis
In the context of tax collectors and sinners associating with Jesus and the Pharisees and scribes becoming somewhat perturbed at the company Jesus keeps, Jesus relates two teaching parables, the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin.
Jesus has already made it clear that repentance is an urgent necessity - "unless you repent you too will all perish." In the teaching parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, Jesus sets out to explain a substantial truth about repentance, namely that it is a particular human response to God which fills him with joy, ie. it pleases him. This joy is the very same joy which Jesus exhibits when "tax collectors and sinners" gather around him, v1-2.
i] Context: See 13:22-30. Jesus' teaching on the repentant sinner, 15:1-32, is the fifth episode in the section dealing with the question, Who enters the kingdom?, 13:22-16:13. The episode is made up of three teaching parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the two sons.
ii] Structure: This passage, Repentant sinner, the source of God's joy, presents as follows:
Jesus associates with tax collectors and sinners.
Teaching parable - the lost sheep, v3-6;
Saying / application, v7:
"there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than ....."
Teaching parable - the lost coin, v8-9:
Saying / application, v10:3:
"there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
The parable of the lost son / two brothers, v11-32.
It is important to carefully note Luke's contextual placement of these two parables, in fact the placement of the whole of chapter 15. As already noted, chapter 14:25-35 serves to remind us that those who would follow Jesus can only claim right-standing in the sight of God on the basis of a total dedication to God, a willingness to "give up everything." The disciple who under-performs will be dumped like saltless salt. So, those who would follow Jesus need to consider whether they have it in them or not. As indicated in the notes on 14:25-35, the purpose behind Jesus' idealistic discipleship demands prompts numerous interpretations. More so than in the other gospels, Luke happily draws on the tradition to set a high bar. The high bar of cross-bearing discipleship may just be a theological metaphor for a complete reliance on the crucified Christ for salvation, but it probably also prompts that dependence, destroying any notion of self-reliance. In the end, we clear the high bar by repentance and faith, rather than our own dedication to cross-bearing service. And let it be known, it is a joy to God when a sinner repents, 15:1-7.
Luke's contextual arrangement of his material reveals what is required of those who would follow Jesus. The cross-bearing discipleship of 14:25-35, is preceded by an urgent call to repentance, 14:15-24, and is followed up by the announcement that repentance prompts God's joyous mercy, his joyous grace, 15:1-32. One wonders to what extent the Pauline proposition that "the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith", Gal.3:24, is operative in Luke's contextual arrangement of the gospel tradition in these chapters.
The two parables are unique to Luke, although Matthew 18:12-13 touches on the same theme as Luke's parable of the lost sheep. This prompts an argument as to which of the two is closer to Jesus' original words, but such an exercise is fruitless. Both Luke and Matthew are most likely drawing on their own oral sources.
v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.
Text - 15:1
Repentance - the source of God's joy, v1-32: i] The setting, v1-2. Luke sets the scene by describing how the Pharisees and Scribes are offended by Jesus' association with people who are religious outcasts. These "sinners" were not the type of people the righteous would want to include in their fellowship. The term "sinner" here describes those who do not keep the religious ceremonies dictated by the rabbis. They are therefore, unclean. "Tax collectors" were regarded as traitors because of their association with the Roman authorities. Jesus "welcomed" (received) them - welcomed their repentance, but not their sin.
de "now" - but, and, now. Here transitional.
hsan ... eggizonteV (eggizw) pres. part. "were [all] gathering around" - there were drawing near to. Periphrastic imperfect, which construction always leaves us wondering as to the type of action implied, eg. is it iterative, repeated action, implying that tax collectors and sinners were constantly coming to Jesus? Marshall suggests it depicts a general circumstance, this is what tended to happen.
panteV "all" - Possibly "were everywhere in the habit of coming to him", Weymouth, or "all the tax collectors ....", but the "all" may just mean "very many", TH.
autw/ dat. pro. "-" - him. Dative of direct object after the verb "draw near to", here as a participle.
akouein (akouw) pres. inf. "to hear [him]" - The infinitive expressing purpose, "in order to hear him."
legonteV (legw) pres. part. "[muttered]" - [were complaining] ... saying. Attendant circumstance participle identifying action accompanying the main verb "grumbled / murmured / complained", so "complained and said", "complained of this, remarking", Phillips, but really pleonastic (redundant), therefore left untranslated as NIV, //. v3, "told [to them] saying."
oJti "-" - Here introducing a dependent statement, direct speech, but possibly interrogative.
ouJtoV pro. "this man" - this one. Usually a contemptuous way to refer to another person.
prosdecetai (prosdecomai) pres. "welcomes" - receives. So "associates with"; "this man is friendly with sinner", CEV, even worse, he "eats with them."
autoiV dat. pro. "[eats with] them" - Dative of direct object after the sun prefix verb "eats with."
ii] The parable of the lost sheep, v3-7. First, Jesus relates the parable of the lost sheep, or probably better titled, the parable of the seeking shepherd. In v7 Jesus applies the parable. What pleases God, what fills him with joy, is the repentance of a broken sinner; the deliberate turning from self to God for mercy, for forgiveness, for grace, is joyous to God. God is not filled with joy at the compromised goodness of the seemingly righteous, those who think they do not need to repent, think they "have no need of a physician." As Jesus said, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance", 11:31,32. So, a person's standing in the sight of God rests solely on repentance and faith; only repentance prompts "rejoicing in heaven."
Both parables in v4-10 are teaching parables, illustrative stories which teach a truth, as opposed to kingdom parables which proclaim the gospel in the form of a riddle, limiting the message to those with eyes to see. "The parable of the seeking shepherd", Ellis, probably better than "lost sheep", is applied in v7 where we are told of "the joy of God over the sinner who repents", Marshall.
thn parabolhn "[this] parable" - The singular may imply "parabolic discourse", Marshall, but the voice should not be pushed, cf. 5:36, so "these parables."
legwn (legw) pres. part. "-" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle, redundant, although Culy often takes a second speech verb as adverbial, modal, expressing the manner in which the first speech word is expressed, or as here, instrumental, expressing the means by which the first speech word is expressed; "Jesus told them this parable by saying."
tiV ..... ou "Suppose .... does [he] not / doesn't [he]" - what ..... [is] not [leaving]. The negated question expects a positive answer; "everyone" would go looking for the lost sheep, obviously, having first secured the other 99.
ex (ek) + gen. "[one] of [you]" - Here used instead of a partitive genitive.
ecwn (ecw) pres. part. "has" - [man from you] having [one hundred sheep]. The participle is adjectival, limiting "man"; "a man ..... who has a hundred sheep". "Which of you men", Weymouth, but better, "which one of you", NJB.
apolesaV (apollumi) aor. part. "loses [one of them]" - having lost. The participle is possibly conditional, "which one of you with a hundred sheep, if he looses one of them", Moffatt, but is likely to be adjectival, "a man ..... who has a hundred sheep and who loses one of them."
en + dat. "in [the open country]" - Local, expressing space/sphere. Matthew, "hills / mountains." Possibly "in the wilderness / desert", Barclay, although this implies lack of care, so better, "In the pasture land", TH. So, "leaves the remaining flock grazing by itself", "leaves the other 99 sheep alone", NCV.
epi + acc. "[go] after" - [goes] to. Spacial, probably with the sense of movement toward a place, so, goes out into the country looking for the lost one; "search for", Barclay.
eJwV + subj. "until [he finds]" - Forming an indefinite temporal clause, as NIV.
euJrwn (euJriskw) aor. part. "when he finds it" - having found. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal, as NIV.
cairwn (cairw) pres. part. "[he] joyfully [puts]" - rejoicing. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of his putting the lost sheep on his shoulders, as NIV.
epi + acc. "on [his shoulders]" - upon [the shoulders of him]. Spacial; of motion down upon.
elqwn (ercomai) aor. part. "goes home" - having come, gone. The participle may be adverbial, temporal, "and when he gets home", Moffatt, but also possibly attendant circumstance identifying action that accompanies the verb "puts"; "places it joyfully on his shoulder and returns home", TNT, as NIV. "And when he comes home, he calls together his friends .......", ESV.
sugkalei (sugkalew) pres. "he calls ...... together" - he calls together. Historic present tense for dramatic effect. Possibly "gathers together for a formal celebration", cf. Jeremias Parables.
legwn (legw) pres. part. "and says" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "calls together", as NIV.
autoiV dat. pro. "-" - to him. Dative of indirect object.
sugcarhte (sugcairw) aor. imp. "rejoice with" - The aorist tense here expressing immediate, urgent action.
moi dat. pro. "me" - Dative of direct object after the sun prefix verb "rejoice with."
oJti "-" - because. Here introducing a causal clause explaining why the friends and neighbors should rejoice with him.
to apolwloV (apollumi) perf. part. "sheep" - The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting the noun "sheep"; "the sheep which was lost." The position is emphatic; "my sheep that was lost", NJB.
Jesus now applies the parable making the simple point that repentance prompts divine joy, and thus by implication, divine grace and favor.
uJmin dat. pro. "[I tell] you" - [I say] to you. Dative of indirect object. A typical introduction for an application, serving to put a stress on the following words; "Count on it", Peterson.
oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement, indirect speech.
ouJtwV adv. "in the same way" - in like manner, in just this way. Comparative
estai (eimi) "there will be more [rejoicing]" - there will be [joy]. The future tense is logical, gnomic, stating what is, rather than what will be, so "there is joy in heaven because of ...." "More", "greater", REB, is supplied, on the assumption that there is at least some joy in heaven for the righteous, see below. Such a translation is possible, but it is not what the text says. "I tell you that in the same way there will be rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents rather than over ninety nine ......" TNT.
en + dat. "in [heaven]" - Local, expressing space/sphere. Typical Hebrew deference toward God, so also the reference to "angels" in v10. So, it is God, our creator, who rejoices.
epi + dat. "over" - over, on, at ... The meaning of this preposition is very fluid, but a causal, rather than spacial sense, seems best here; "there is more happiness in heaven because of one sinner who turns to God", CEV.
metanoounti (metanoew) pres. part. "[one sinner] who repents" - repenting. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "sinner". Luke, in his selection of gospel episodes, shows us that repentance is like a change of direction, a turning away, a turning around, a turning to; it is like accepting an invitation, a seeking after divine mercy / forgiveness. Lit. "to change one's mind", cf. 3:3, 8, 5:32.
h] "than" - than. Producing a contrast, either "rather than / instead of", or a graded contrast, in which case "more" must be supplied, as NIV and most other translations. See above.
epi + dat. "over" - Probably again causal.
dikaioiV adj. "righteous persons" - righteous, just. Adjective used as a substantive. Does Jesus mean "self-righteous / seemingly righteous"? It is possible, for the sake the argument, that Jesus means "righteous", in the same sense as Zechariah and Elizabeth "were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord", 1:6. If so, are there actually people "who do not need to repent"? Surely everyone needs to repent! The whole point of this parable is to identify repentance as the key with which a person accesses God's grace. So, it is possible that the phrase is facetious (an ad hominem argument); "those who think they do not need to repent", so Stein. Yet again, possibly not. The statement may just be for argument sake to make the comparison, a comparison improved by exaggeration, so Fitzmyer, Creed. Plummer puts it nicely when he says "the ninety-nine represent a hypothetical class, an ideal which since the Fall has not been reached." So, we could add a qualifier if we wanted to; "of course, no such person exists." The sample sermon takes the line that the "righteous" are the "seemingly righteous", that Jesus is being ironic, but this interpretation is by no means proved.
metanoiaV (a) gen. "[who do not need] to repent" - [who have no need] of repentance. The genitive is usually treated as verbal, objective, as NIV; "have no need for repentance", Phillips. In another sense the genitive can be treated as adjectival, in that it limits by description / definition, "need"; "they have nothing of which they need to repent."
iii] The parable of the lost coin, v8-10. This second parable, "the weeping woman", Ellis (nice alliteration, but probably better, "the searching woman"), simply reinforces the first parable. The interpretation in v10 repeats that of v7. It is possible the whole parable is in the form of a rhetorical question, so Jeremias, Parables. Some have argued that the coins were attached to a braided headdress, possibly a dowry, and that the loss of one of these coins is like losing an integral part of a piece of jewelry.
h] "or" - cf. 14:31 for a similar introduction to a second parable making the same point as the first. "Or again, making the same point."
ecousa (exw) pres. part. "has" - [what woman] having [ten drachmas, if she loses ....]. Is the participle here modifying the verb "loses", so possibly modal, even conditional, or is it more properly an attendant circumstance participle identifying an action accompanying the losing? It is sometimes difficult to determine whether a "verbal" participle is attending another verb or whether it is modifying it, ie. functioning adverbially. Being within a question, "what woman ....?" and a conditional clause, "if she loses ....", doesn't help. Probably best to escape the dilemma and call it adjectival; "what woman who has ten silver coins, if she loses ...." Weymouth.
ean + subj. "-" - if. Introducing a conditional clause, 3rd class, where the condition has the possibility of being realized; "if, as may be the case, [she loses one drachma] then [doesn't she light a lamp ...?]"
ouci aJptei (aJptw) pres. "does she not light [a lamp]" - The syntax forms a question expecting a positive answer. The imagery here is of a mud brick and earth/stone floor single room home, dark due to few windows, and in need of careful sweeping to find anything.
eJwV ou| + subj. "until [she finds it]" - until [she might find what she lost]. The subjunctive with this preposition serves to form an indefinite temporal clause. The addition of the relative pronoun ou| produces the idiomatic relative phrase "at which time"; "until the time when", Culy.
euJrousa (euJriskw) aor. part. "when she finds" - having found. The participle is adverbial, usually treated as temporal, as NIV.
legousa (legw) pres. part. "and says" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle, expressing action accompanying the main verb "she calls together"; "she gathers together her friends and neighbors and says."
moi dat. pro. "[rejoice with] me" - Dative of direct object after the sun prefix verb "rejoice with."
oJti "-" - because. Here expressing cause/reason; introducing a causal clause explaining why her friends and neighbors should rejoice with her; "rejoice with me for I have found", Moffatt.
Jesus now applies the parable in much the same way as he applied the parable of the lost sheep. What is it that pleases God, makes him happy? God is filled with joy when a person, who knows they are cursed in his sight, turns to him and asks for his forgiveness. Repentance brings joy to the Lord. As for "rejoicing in the presence of the angles", this means much the same as "rejoicing in heaven"; it describes God celebrating with the heavenly host.
ouJtwV adv. "in the same way" - thus, so / in the same way. Here referencing what precedes; "it is the same in heaven", Phillips.
uJmin dat. pro. "[I tell] you" - [I say] to you. Dative of indirect object. The phrase serves to underline the following statement.
ginetai (ginomai) pres. "there is" - there comes to be. Here used instead of the verb to-be.
tou qeou (oV) gen. "[in the presence of the angels] of God" - [before the angels] of God. The genitive is adjectival, possessive. Again, out of deference to God he is not described as rejoicing, rather we have a general rejoicing "before" the angels. In reality, it is God who rejoices, and obviously with the angels - repentance prompts divine joy. Given that even our most noble motivations cannot tolerate close insepection, repentance / faith is virtually the only response that prompts divine joy / that pleases God. As Paul notes, the rest is but "filthy rags"; thankfully, in Christ, we are as white as snow.
epi + dat. "over" - Presumably a causal sense is again intended; "because of one sinner who repents."
metanoounti (metanoew) pres. part. "who repents" - The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "one sinner." As above, repentance in the sense of a turning to God, a decision to rest humbly on God's mercy (in Christ), rather than an expression of sorrow.